On love and equality

Tonight I saw Tegan and Sara perform live for the second time in my life. The first time I saw them was in 2010, when I was crazy-obsessed with them (see posts here and here and here *face palm*). Three years later, I can honestly say the obsession has died down a little and has instead evolved into a strong appreciation and admiration for these out lesbian identical twins.

I was pretty deep in the closet back in 2009 when I first started listening to Tegan and Sara. I had been struggling to come to terms with my sexuality, especially with what it meant in relation to my conservative, religious upbringing. At the time, there was no one I trusted enough to talk about it with, no one who I thought would understand and who wouldn’t condemn me and see me as a freak. When I realised, whilst listening to the album The Con, that the sentiments of love and heartache that these women were singing about were directed at other women, I suddenly felt like I was not alone. I slowly began to realise that it was ok, there wasn’t anything wrong with me, I didn’t have to be afraid or ashamed about how I felt or who I was.

Four years later..

As I sit in my chair at the Sydney Opera House, watching the heartache on Sara’s face and listening to the struggle in her voice as she sings the lyrics of Now I’m All Messed Up, especially the part when she yells “go” to this person she is in a relationship with in the song when it is clear that what she really wants to say is “please stay”, I am struck by the knowledge that although our hearts may beat for the same-sex, our love is just like any other’s. We feel the same excitement and exhilaration of that first kiss, the same joy and ecstasy of falling in love, and the same pain and utter desolation of having our hearts broken. For any person who has ever been in a heterosexual relationship, we have felt that same love.

Having said that, Australia is still one of the places in the world that has not legalised same-sex marriage. Some people may ask why marriage equality is such a big deal. Why can’t we just be content to do what we want in our own homes? Why is it so important for our marriages to be treated in the same way that heterosexual couples’ marriages are treated? The reason is that the government’s stance on marriage equality says a lot about its, and our society’s, attitude towards gay people, as well as having real-life, practical repercussions on our lives. I hope that in time, these attitudes will slowly start to change and that people will start to realise that no matter what your sexuality, we all live and breathe that same love, as miraculous and heartbreaking as it is.

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On arguments against gay marriage and why they have no reasonable grounds

Note: I wrote this post largely as a response to all the ridiculous and contradictory comments I have watched and read recently, which have been made by our politicians. I was also inspired by the support given by numerous members within the community. The following post is not intended to offend anyone. I only ask that those who oppose gay marriage, especially those who have signed petitions against it, read this post with an open mind. Any comments or opinions from either side of the fence are welcome.

1. Marriage has traditionally always been defined as being between a man and a woman

It has also been in Australia’s historical tradition to deny women the right to vote and to hold property, to discriminate against members of certain races, and to discriminate and limit the rights of Indigenous Australians. It was not so long ago that interracial couples were not allowed to marry; the idea that this was once reality seems ridiculous to us now and thank goodness this tradition has changed.. think of all the beautiful interracial babies! This argument is in reality an argument against change and progress. Laws should be made to benefit the current and future needs of society, not to preserve the past. Furthermore, it was only in 2004, not too long ago it seems, that the 1961 Marriage Act was changed, under the Howard government, to explicitly state that a union between two women or two men does not constitute a marriage.

2. Why do same-sex couples need to marry when they can have civil unions?

Although civil unions give the illusion of equality, having a separate term applied for couples of the same sex fosters the notion of ‘separate but equal’. This legal doctrine was used to justify the segregation of blacks from whites in America in the 60s. Gay people are equal contributors to society; we pay our taxes, we have jobs just like any other straight person, we contribute to the economy, we are carers, nurses, teachers, bankers, doctors.. I could continue ad infinitum.. why should we not have access to the same rights that every other contributing member of society has? Why do we get treated as second-class citizens? We are denied the right to marry but are required to settle for something that most would consider to be less than. The term ‘marriage’ is universally recognised by the world, whereas ‘civil union’ is ambiguous at best, especially when moving between states, yet alone countries. Providing proof of a lifelong commitment to each other as part of a civil union can be a lot more difficult then proving that you are legally married. This is outright discrimination masquerading as equality.

To state this argument is like saying, “Well Ted here is Caucasian so he gets to have an actual toy car, whilst Andrew over there is Asian so he can just have a very realistic cut-out drawing of the car..  but Andrew should really just be grateful that he gets anything at all”. If marriage is really no better than civil unions, then why aren’t most straight couples happy to settle for a civil union rather than marriage? The availability of civil unions is easy to promote for someone who has full legal rights to marry; how can you possibly justify this argument to someone who doesn’t? Nobody wants to be treated as a second-class citizen. To those who would support this argument, answer a simple question for me… How would you feel if you weren’t allowed to legally marry the person you loved and wanted to spend the rest of your life with? Would you be happy to settle for something less?

3. The Bible says that homosexuality is a sin and an abomination

And of course, since our society is governed by religion, gays should not be allowed to marry as this will encourage the false belief that it is “OK” to be gay …. wait… hang on….

I strongly believe in the right to religious freedom. We live in a multicultural society, with people from all sorts of backgrounds and who hold all sorts of religious beliefs. Having said that, Australia is a secular society, which it seems, some people have failed to recognise and accept. Individuals and communities have the right to believe whatever they will, but they do not have the right to impose those beliefs on the wider community, let alone on the governance of a nation, as is clearly reflected in this little thing called the separation of church and state… I dunno, you may have heard of it…

Once again, I strongly believe in the right to religious freedom. I am not a fan of organised religion and I have no desire to practice it… so I don’t. I don’t go to church, I don’t pray, and I don’t read the bible. But the other thing I don’t do is I don’t tell people what they can and cannot do as part of their religion. I don’t sign petitions for the government to limit the freedom that religious people have. And do you know why? Because at the end of the day, what you do within the confines of your community has nothing to do with me and I know that it is not my place. I may not always agree with what some Christians believe, but as long as what they believe does not have any direct impact on me (in other words, Christians are not telling me what to do with my life), then frankly, I don’t give a shit! Why can’t some Christians give gays the same amount of respect?

4. Gay marriage is a threat to the sanctity of marriage

I really don’t understand how one couple’s marriage effects another’s? Much like how I don’t understand, to quote Wanda Sykes, “people all up in arms over shit that don’t effect them”.

What does the ‘sanctity’ of marriage even mean? As a former christian, I understand the term ‘sanctity’ to refer to being ‘holy’ or ‘sacred’. Therefore, I would understand the sanctity of marriage to be referring to that in which a marriage between two people is considered holy, sacred, or set apart. Marriage is not like any other relationship. Marriage is special. Marriage is a blessing. I fundamentally believe these things. I ask then, what is it about two women or two men that makes them incapable, or less capable, of making a lifelong commitment to one another? Which do you think is a bigger threat to the sanctity of marriage.. love between two people of the same-sex… or adultery? It’s a tough one, I know…

Perhaps those of the Christian faith would also argue that the sanctity of marriage refers to God imparting his blessing upon the union. Since some Christians (and I say some because not all Christians/Catholics believe this) believe God is vehemently against same-sex relationships, marriage between two people of the same-sex would defy God’s “design” of marriage and he would therefore refuse to give his blessing to such a union. Nevertheless, people of any religious belief, even no belief, are allowed to get married, so long as the marriage is between a man and a woman. Naturally, non-christians would have a celebrant in place of a minister or priest, yet they still have the right to be legally married. Marriage in our society, once again, a secular society, no longer requires the blessing of God. Why then, should atheists have the right to marry, for example, when gays do not? This is a double-standard.

5. The purpose of marriage is to have children. Same-sex couples cannot biologically procreate so they should not have the right to marry.

I understand this argument to be based on the part of the Bible in which God commands Adam and Eve to fill the earth with their offspring. One of the purposes of marriage, as believed by Christians, is extrapolated from this command. The fact is though that the world is no longer underpopulated – it is the opposite! The relevancy of this command in today’s society is therefore lost.

Furthermore, the logical conclusion of this argument is not just for gays, but for all infertile couples in general, yet the law does not state that one must be willing and physically able to have children in order to be married. Several couples who do not wish to have children still choose to get married – fortunately, they have that right. On the flip side, several couples who do not wish to get married still end up having children. Clearly, having children is not a prerequisite for marriage and vice versa.

6. Gay marriage is a threat to children and families; children develop best when they have a mother and a father.

The idea that a man and woman make better parents than two men or two women, just because of the fact that they are a man and a woman, is a simplistic notion that does not have any empirical grounds. Both the American and the Australian Psychological Associations agree that children raised by same-sex couples are no worse off than children raised by heterosexual couples. Belonging to a certain gender does not make one a better parent. A child could have an abusive or alcoholic mother or father, yet if the logical conclusion of this argument were followed, they would be deemed to be better off than a child raised by two loving, supportive mothers or fathers. This is obviously not true. I think many would agree that it is the quality of love and support given by parents that make a child better off, rather than something as superficial as their parents’ gender. The concept of family is often also more than just blood. Just because a child has two mothers or two fathers, it does not mean that they cannot have positive role models of the other respective sex in their life.

Furthermore, having a father and a mother does not make a family immune to the consequences of divorce. Children of divorce often experience significant stress and trauma. It follows then, that a marriage between a man and woman does not necessarily mean that children born of such a union will be better off then children of same-sex parents. And what about single parents? If this argument is to be sustained, shouldn’t there then be a law against single-parenting and divorce?

Linked to this is the argument that children with same-sex parents usually experience a great deal of distress as a result of bullying. The solution to this problem is not to refuse same-sex couples the right to marry, but to make our society more accepting and less discriminatory. Denying same-sex couples the right to marry indirectly teaches children that it is OK to bully kids who come from same-sex parent families. Legalising gay marriage would be an important step towards teaching society that Carol’s Mum and Dad are no better parents than Casey’s Mums or David’s Dads and that kids from heterosexual families have no right to bully kids from same-sex families.

7. Slippery slope argument. “If gays are allowed to marry, next thing they’ll be pushing for pedophilia and bestiality to be legalised!”

Proponents of this argument are forgetting one thing… a relationship between two consenting adults is not the same as a relationship between an adult and a child or an animal. To place homosexuality in the same category as pedophilia and bestiality is extremely offensive and ignorant. I don’t think it is necessary to say anything further on this.

8. If gay marriage is legalised, priests and ministers will be put in an awkward position where they will be forced to solemnise marriages against their will.
Not true, as demonstrated by the recent motion passed by the NSW Legislative Council.

So.. Thoughts?

On honesty and acceptance

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Recently, I have only been in the habit of blogging about something that I believe is worth saying. I am not someone who wears their heart on their sleeve. Honestly though, I am exhausted from the effort of keeping everything inside and ignoring the giant elephant in the room. I’ve decided that I would like things to be out in the open.

I have never before felt the urge to make such a public declaration as I am making now, and as much as I don’t believe in labels, I feel it is important for me to admit to you that I am a gay woman and have suspected this fact to be true for several years, although it has only been within the last two years that I have had the courage to admit this to myself and to those close to me. This may come as a shock to some of you, but hopefully to others it will not. And no, one of my friends did not think it would be amusing to hack into my account and play a practical joke on me. In fact, I feel this very act diminishes and belittles the act of coming out for those of us who eventually find the courage and willpower to do so.

Realizing you are gay has many significant impacts on a person’s life. For me, it meant a constant fear that my friends and family would learn the truth and therefore a persistent need to hide it at all costs; it meant a pervasive feeling of shame and guilt, which would often lead to depression; it meant the end of a lot of things that I had believed to be true; it meant the loss of several friendships and an increased sense of loneliness.

Although some things have gotten better since I came out to a few of my friends and family, I must admit that there are a lot of issues that I am still dealing with, as much as I try to avoid thinking about them. Despite no longer being as fearful of people finding out, I often still experience the fear that I will never be accepted by my family and friends. Being told to keep it a secret for the sake of my parents’ reputation has not helped, and has only served to reinforce this fear and belief that I should be ashamed of who I am and that, by being truthful about it, I will bring shame to my family.

Often, I will also still feel like an outcast, especially when I am around a group of Christians, which is why I try to avoid being in this situation whenever possible, as much as I do love these people as individuals and know that this is not their intention. For me, being gay also means that I am constantly questioning whether I will ever be able to live a “normal” life – marriage, weddings, babies – everything most girls dream of. Although society has generally become more accepting in this respect, I think we still have some way to go before we can say that you and I are treated and considered equally and fairly as human beings.

I want to be able to walk down the street and hold my head high, knowing full well that I am a smart, funny, talented, and decent human being, without having to put myself down for the fact that I also happen to be gay. I want to be able to introduce my friends and family to my future-partner, if I am ever so fortunate as to have one, and to have them see her for who she is as a person and not just for her anatomy. I want for my friends and family to someday love and acknowledge me because of who I am, rather than loving me despite it. I want to be able to rejoice and take pride in myself, rather than be ashamed and depressed about it. Although I know that change doesn’t occur overnight, discovering the latent homophobia that is still prevalent within my own heart has made me realise that writing to you now is an important step towards this direction. Until I can say to myself, “Yes, I am gay, so what?”, how can I expect anyone else to do the same.

Chances are, I will not be the only person you know or will meet in your life that identifies as being gay or somewhere along the queer spectrum. I pray that you do not simply take the stand point that your religion or upbringing requires you to take, but that you are able to see our humanity and to sympathize with us as fellow human beings. I humbly ask your help in this because I am only human, and as hard as I try to hold my head above water, there are times where I find myself alone and drowning and in need of someone to tell me that they love me and support me and that everything is going to be ok.

Someone once wrote that love is the one thing that cuts across all our realities; it is the bridge between all our differences. I can only hope that we would one day be willing to walk across it.

Movie Review: Let Me In

(warning: may contain spoilers)

I’m not a big fan of horror movies. Actually, that’s an understatement. I hate, hate, HATE horror movies. I never watch them because let’s be honest, I’m a wimp who has an overactive imagination and a chronic difficulty in falling asleep… and I don’t need to be watching horror films to exacerbate either of these things.

Having said that, this movie is so much more than a typical horror, or even vampire, film. In fact, I would classify it more as a gothic romance than a horror film; somewhat reminiscent of Pan’s Labyrinth for me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely dark and twisted. I mean, you wouldn’t take your children to go see it. But then it’s also beautiful and romantic and moving at the same time, mostly because of the love story between Abbey, the vampire girl, and Owen, the wimpy, bullied boy. Both share a dark side – Abbey with the whole brutal killer thing and Owen because he’s bullied so much to the extent that he wants to kill and pour out his hate and anger on someone else – and I think that’s why they share this sudden and strong connection when they first meet.

There are so many things to love about this film (the cinematography was amazing, the music score was hauntingly beautiful, and the acting was superb), but what I loved most about it was the humanity of, who most people would consider to be the villain of the story, the vampire-girl, Abbey, and the relationships she has with her ‘Father’ and with Owen. On the one hand, she’s a cold-blooded killer for sure, but when we are shown that she kills not because she finds pleasure in it, but because she’s hungry, because she’ll die without it, we also come to understand and sympathise with her character and the position she is placed in.

The story between Abbey and her ‘Father’ is especially moving when we see how much he is willing to sacrifice to keep her alive – to the extent that he pours acid on his face to disfigure himself so that, when he is caught trying to kill someone, the police cannot trace the murders back to Abbey, and when he gives himself to her so that she can suck his blood before he, as a result, plummets to his death. If that is not an unconditional and self-sacrificing love, I don’t know what is.

The dark and yet, innocent love story between Abbey and Owen also showcases the humanity of these characters. When you juxtapose the brutal and violent murder scenes with the silent, creeping beauty of the scenes she has with Owen (this scene, for example), you see that Abbey is so much more than just a murderous villain. When we see how Owen and Abbey interact with one another how they care for each other, and love each other despite the darkness within themselves, we really get a taste of what it means to love someone unconditionally.

And what I loved most about Owen’s character was his innocence and the purity of his heart; the fact that he is able to look past the whole “she’s a vampire who kills people and sucks their blood” thing and look into her soul and see that she really is good inside – that is admirable, my friend.

What I loved about this movie was how it brought up questions like, what is evil and what is good? What does love look like? Can someone who does ‘evil’ things also have the ability to love and show kindness and self-sacrifice? Who is/are the villain(s) and who is/are the victim(s) in the story? The way I see it, although Abbey and her ‘Father’ had probably killed hundreds of people in violent and brutal ways, the ‘Father’ did it out of love, and Abbey did it out of the need to survive. The bullies, on the other hand, tortured and attempted to kill Owen out of pleasure, out of the desire to inflict suffering on another person. So who, in the end, is really evil? What does this even mean? Let Me In goes far and beyond the typical black and white story line of good vs. evil and allows the viewer to deal with all the grey areas, which really don’t have any clear cut answers. It really just teaches us to question any simplistic, preconceived notions that we hold and to reassess and consider that maybe the answers to such questions aren’t always as clear-cut.

Although Let Me In may be considered a dark and disturbing tale with more than a few scary, gruesome scenes… for me, it was really a story about unconditional love, self-sacrifice and loyalty; the agony of growing up and being different; and the innocence and purity of young love.

Although I haven’t seen the Swedish original, I thought Matt Reeves did a great job, despite the fact that a lot of the cinematography and scenes (apparently) are pretty much copies of the original. The film was still a visual feast to watch. I mean, when you have really good cinematography already, how are you supposed to firstly, make a remake of such a good film, and secondly, make it even better?!? It’s just impossible I think. So I’m sympathetic to Mr Reeves there. I enjoyed the film and I thought the storyline was original and the cinematography visually pleasing enough that I really didn’t care whether the film was “original” or not. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and to that I say, amen – all art is merely inspiration in the end.

Watch the trailer here.

On loss and acceptance

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross said that there are five stages of grief. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. Most of us don’t respond well to loss. Whether its the loss of a loved one, the dissolution of a marriage/friendship, the loss of a job… none of it is pleasant.

I think we’d all like to think that most things in our life will last for a while. We never expect to lose the things dear to us. Maybe we should. That way, we won’t be surprised when we do. Not that loss is always inevitable or that we should expect it, but that we should also not expect not to experience it. Confusing, I know. None of us expect to lose our friends, especially the friendships that mean the most to us; the people who are most intertwined and involved in our lives. And although most of us would never choose to end these friendships when they are mutually beneficial and healthy, sometimes we get to a point in our lives where the mere desire to maintain a friendship is not enough to keep the ship afloat. Maybe it’s because you’ve grown apart, or things change and you’re not the people you once were, or you realise that your lives are headed in different directions and there’s no room to accommodate the other, or there is some kind of major disagreement that cannot be resolved even if you wanted to be able to resolve it. When any of these things happen, perhaps its time to let nature take its course. Of course, grief is a natural and normal response, considering that you’ve lost something dear to you and can never get it back.

Maybe at first we try to convince ourselves that it’s not happening: “He/She’s just busy; that’s why he/she hasn’t called”, or “We just need some space; then things will be back to normal”. Denial. Then, in time, we realise that something actually is wrong, and we start to feel angry; angry at the other person for all the ways in which they may have wronged you, real or imagined; angry at yourself for letting yourself get so attached and for being so neurotic; angry for the role that situation or people have played in causing this loss. Then, once the anger starts to subside, we try to reach a compromise: “We just need to set aside more time to work on our friendship”, or “You need to work on this and I need to work on that”. Then the depression sets in, as you realise that nothing you do can bridge the gap that now separates you; when you realise that the relationship has run its course; when you realise that things will never be the way they used to be; when you realise how great the loss you have suffered. Then finally, once you reach rock-bottom, you start to realise that the only way left to go now is up. You reach a place of acceptance. You pick yourself up and you move on with your life. This process of grief can be applied to any situation. The important thing to remember is that there is an end to the grieving process; the denial, the anger, the bargaining, and the depression… they’re all necessary steps to reaching that final goal of acceptance.

No one likes to experience loss, but we all know that  in most cases, loss is inevitable. We know that people die. We know that people change, relationships change, and that it’s not realistic to expect that a relationship can survive such trauma. We know that nothing in life is stable: jobs, safety, security, relationships, health – we could lose any of these things in a second. In most circumstances, nothing we do can stop us from experiencing such loss. And so we learn not to take any of these things for granted… the inevitability of loss makes us appreciate and cherish these things evenmoreso when we are fortunate enough to possess them. It gives beauty to life, albeit bittersweet and fleeting.

In the end, the road to acceptance is a rough and bumpy one. And maybe we all reach it in different ways: some turn to spirituality or religion, others to the people/things they still have with them, and still others to the promise of the future. But what does it matter what route we take, so long as we reach the goal in the end? We need to face up to our loss and move forward with our lives. Living in the past will get us nowhere.

on nostalgia and change

It’s lonely now the rain has started falling. I miss the friends we knew back home. I’m thinking of them now the storm is rising.

At sea there’s always tomorrow. There are ways to be free. We’ll work it out.

We’ll work it out.

At Sea by Electrelane

There comes a point in all our lives where we experience change – in our own lives or in the lives of the people we know. Sometimes change is exciting-  something new, something refreshing. Other times change is scary and saddening. And sometimes it’s both. Sometimes we are forced into it and other times we take the plunge willingly. Needless to say, change comes in all shapes and sizes.

How do you respond to change? Are you a glass half-full or glass half-empty kind of person?

Personally, I’m not a big fan of change. I’m a homebody. A nester. I am the kind of person who will go to the same restaurant and order the same dish on multiple occasions (sometimes on consecutive days even).

Most of the time though, change is unavoidable.

When everything around you is changing, you tend to miss the things that you’ve lost. I miss feeling like I belonged somewhere, to a certain group of people. I miss the sense of family that I once had. I miss the way certain friendships used to be. It’s sad, knowing that things will never be the way they were. Try as we might, we can never go back.

But those losses, great as they may be, should not make our gains any less worthwhile. Sometimes all we need is time. Time to make new connections with people. Time to discover new places of belonging. Time to make and foster new relationships. Time to mend and nurture old ones.

Change will come, although it will not come easy. As we leave our old lives and move on to the new, where will our focus be? Will our eyes and hearts be fixed on the past or will they look forward to the future, scary and uncertain as it might be?

On human connection and missing someone dear to you

What shall I do with a life turned to memory? I tried to forget you. I tried to forget you. Where shall I go when I wake from a dream of you? I tried to forget you. I tried to forget you.

Saturday by Electrelane

Every now and then I hear a new song that completely captures me. It’s more than just a good beat or a catchy tune. Usually it will be a song that speaks to me on an emotional level; that depicts me as a person and what I am going through or have experienced at a certain time in my life. Why? I think it’s because most of the time we’re lonely; we’re lonely and we need to experience some sort of human connection in order to keep us sane. That’s what music is for me: a gateway to the emotions of another and to the reassurance that I am not alone.

I was listening to this song today from Electrelane’s “No Shouts No Calls”, which by the way, is swiftly becoming one of my most favourite albums, and the lyrics and music just completely captured me. It’s hard to explain how this happens or how it feels, but it’s kind of like being blind and then getting your sight back and seeing everything for the first time. Or it’s like being on drugs (not that I have ever done that but it’s like what I would imagine being on drugs would feel like). Basically it’s that feeling you get when you experience something so beautiful that it makes you want to cry. The words and the guitar and the bass and the piano and the drums and the vocals and, oh! Everything about this song just floors me. These women are so amazing and talented and inspiring and in the words of E. Page, “I am totally jealous because I will never be them”.

Listen above, read below.

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Saturday by Electrelane

I’ve got a photo from a long time ago
Hold it in your pocket
Hold it in your pocket
I’ve got a ring that my grandmother gave to me
Wear it on your finger
Wear it on your finger
I’ve got a letter that’s full of our secrets
The last one you sent to me
The last one you sent to me, oh

What shall I do with a life turned to memory ?
I tried to forget you
I tried to forget you
Where shall I go when I wake from a dream of you ?
I tried to forget you
I tried to forget you

I still see you
I still see you
I still see you

I turn in my sleep and I see you beside me
It’s your imagination
It’s your imagination
I go to the places we went to together
Find another countries
Find another countries

I turn in my sleep and I see you beside me
It’s your imagination
It’s your imagination
I want to go on but it’s another day without you
I tried to forget you
I tried to forget you

I still see you
I still see you
I still see you…

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